Places Where I Have Lived: Dirty Floors, Sad Stories, and Shared Dinners
by Matt Powers
We have all lived in some places. Where have you lived, Matt Powers?
Fairmount Ave., State College, Pa., $425/mo.
I moved to downtown State College during my junior year at Penn State after living way up near the Walmart (pause for collective groan from anyone familiar with Penn State geography, or I guess Walmart in general) for the fall semester. This was a former frat house that was de-chartered, likely due to some horrific circumstance involving a pledge many years ago. We tried not to think about it.
Everything was decaying and falling apart, and I lived in a converted attic where you could only stand up in about one-third of the room, but it was massive and I was able to squeeze in a nice little lounge and work space on the side opposite from my bed. We found an old beer-pong table that the frat had forgotten in their haste to vacate and used it as an occasional kitchen table. We avoided touching the floors with anything but shoes. Boots were even better.
Newell St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn, N.Y., $575/mo.
After securing a summer internship in New York and showing up doe-eyed a day before I was supposed to start working, a younger and more foolish version of myself haphazardly got a fantastic deal. Relegated to a flip phone (that I still use, perhaps I am still just as foolish), I had my Philadelphia-based sister on her computer texting me about apartments in my price range that became available on Craigslist and I would call right away.
The first three places I saw were just so-so but the very last one of the day was a great room in Greenpoint right near to McCarren park and walkable to the Bedford L stop. Due entirely to my sister’s vigilance, I was the first to secure a meeting. Twenty minutes later, as I chatted with the young married couple whose housemate was heading back to Poland for the summer, their phone rang off the hook with unrequited bargain hunters, desperate for the space.
That summer I became a voyeur by forced proximity to the married couple’s fights and their IKEA furniture building sessions (which often launched right into the said fights). I also spent one an unforgettable evening entertaining my roommate’s Polish mother, who spoke no English, for several hours by myself. I later learned my roommates’ marriage was a rushed green card wedding that perhaps was too green itself to formally cement, and yet they exhibited a passion and love in everything they did — from cooking to laughing to fighting — that I quite admired. It was a really great summer.
Olfert Fischers Gade, Copenhagen, Denmark, 3,400 DKK (585 USD)/mo.
In one of the most expensive cities in the world, I secured yet another deal via random University placement. I lived right in the city center with a 45-year-old Danish woman named Birgitte who was filled with sage advice, good cheer, and a taste for red wine. She laughed good-naturedly, offered help with my attempts at speaking in her cumbersome native tongue, and occasionally would make me fine Danish cuisine over which we discussed Danish cinema.
On the weekends, she took care of her ex-husband’s children, her ex-step-children, as it were. They were lovable rascals, and I couldn’t even stay mad at them when their shouts woke me prematurely from a too-much-Tuborg sleep. The mutual love between Birgitte and the two kids was clearly evident, which made the coda to my trip all the more somber: Days before I left, her ex-husband remarried and took the kids to a distant part of Denmark, aggressively severing all contact to the woman who had been a weekend caregiver and friend, much to the protest of both the children and Birgitte. We remain in touch and exchange occasional sundries native to our countries, and I still hope one day soon, harmony can be restored to Birgitte, the children, and ol’ Olfert Fischers Gade.
Myrtle Ave., Fort Greene, Brooklyn, N.Y., $720/mo.
Back in America and venturing into the world of employment, I found my current home by process of elimination, in that I only received one reply to my 15 requests to even look at a place. My then-roommate Kent was trying to fill two spaces at once, which I paid no mind to at the time. But a year later when Kent left for his girlfriend’s place and my other roommate Dwight split to try his fortune in China, I realized exactly how difficult trying to fill two rooms at once actually is. You are left stranded without the invaluable aid of an established roommate who can help weed out the crazies and have your back if the new situation starts going south.
The problem was compounded by the fact that one of the rooms I was trying to move has no outside window, which scared a lot of potential roomies away (and one must apply extra scrutiny to people who want to live in a world without natural sunlight). I got lucky once again and found two very nice people. We’ve even had a few communal dinners since they moved in two months ago (although the Danish cinema conversation is not as stimulating).
Previously: Logan Sachon
Matt Powers is is in his early twenties-ish.